This Post: 8 Tips to Build a Better Relationship with Your Teen
By Vanessa Baker
Staying connected with your teen as they go through puberty and work toward becoming independent (which is the goal!) can be extremely challenging.
As a teen-parenting relationship coach, it’s my job to guide families through this difficult time by helping them understand one another, communicate more openly, and allow freedom and space to grow. The good news is, with a few tips, it’s possible for parents to take control of their own feelings (and attitudes!), redirect their relationship with their teen and form a solid relationship built on trust, fun and love.
The boundaries between home, school, and work are nearly non-existent in today’s world. We rush from thing to thing, all while sitting in the same chair! To combat this never-ending cycle, we have to make space and be mindful of our time, which will allow us to create a purposeful connection with our teens. We need to slow down if we want a shot at hearing what’s going on in their minds and lives. Parents that are a “moving target” and who feel compelled to go, go, go, will benefit by making more time for their teens, especially if they’re feeling “shut out.”
The things parents used to be stressed about would be considered easy-peasy compared to our 2021 style stressors! We’re all maxed out right now, and understandably. But we have to choose to calm and comfort ourselves in ways that bring us closer to our kids. Teenagers can get spooked easily —the main complaint of my teen clients is that their parents are always “mad at them” or “yelling at them.” We have to get a grip on our moods, reactions, and feelings so that we can be considered a safe space for our teens when they really need us for the big stuff, or just to share the little details of their lives. I teach all my teen clients to breathe and meditate — and they love it. They even teach their newfound calming-down skills to their parents when they see them struggling to cope.
We can’t pretend that our kids are never involved in risky or dangerous behavior, nor should we assume that our teens are always up to no good. While we may, at times, fear the worst, it’s far better to actually do the work to get interested and invested in what’s really going on in our kids’ lives. There’s no need to FBI-style interrogate them, but you can ask questions with the intent to connect, understand, and learn. We have to parent while awake, not in a fog of fear or in the darkness of denial.
We definitely know how to follow up when we need a chore done or when a project deadline is looming, but what about following up on silly stuff? Why not ask teens simple, interest-based questions like, “Is your teacher still falling asleep in class?” or “Is pizza still your all-time favorite food?” These may seem pointless, but really it’s just about catching up with what our kids are into now since they are more than halfway to adulthood. We can learn a lot about our kids and they’ll appreciate the fact that we care enough to ask about the “little things.”
Fix your Ratios
Parenting a teen is about balance — and sometimes you have to adjust things to regain that balance. Here’s how: pick an “annoying” part of being a parent of a teen — that’s metric one. Then pick a fun part — that’s metric two. These two chosen areas should be even, at the very least, but it’s a lot more enjoyable to keep metric two higher than metric one — and you’ll get so much more cooperation and attention from your teenager. For example, if you’re always about the chores, that’s okay! But then make sure you’re also starting conversations or sending texts that are fun and encourage bonding — such as jokes, memes, thoughts on life, or something hard or cool that happened in your day.
Adjust your Attitude
Oh, we love to say that to the teens, don’t we!? I always remind parents that we’re the ones they copy and model when it comes to attitude. It’s very rare for me to see a teenager who is “grumpy” or “negative” who has really positive and aware parents. We have to own and capitalize on that fact of life. We have to be as consistently positive, humble, and authentic as possible. Parental ego is the number one parent-teen relationship killer.
Listen 10 Times More Than You Talk
This is a tough one because as parents, we believe we have so many smart and wise ideas that come from years of painful experiences and hard work, plus countless victories to lord over our teens. And, while we have been through our own teen experiences and hardships, we have to let our teens go through theirs — and simply be there to guide them.
To do this, we need to listen to our kids; we must bite our tongues, take a deep breath, chill out, and just listen and wait and listen and wait. If we want to connect with them, we need to leave space and time available in our days for our teens to trust us to really listen to them.
Table the Agenda
As working parents, we all have 1,000 individual tasks to accomplish each day. All day long most of us are in “executive functioning mode,” playing chess all day with the things that are done and undone in our collective lives. But instead of living at the mercy of our agendas, we need to remember that we’re the boss, not that agenda. To have a flexible, rewarding organizational culture, we need to relax a little and give everyone the chance to breathe versus serving as cogs in the family wheel 24/7. Quieting our brains’ taskmasters for just an hour each day allows time for connectivity and space for creativity to emerge; when that happens, our kids will likely be more accepting of their role in the daily “agenda.”
Our teens are going to be off starting their own lives before we know it, so this is the time to really cement the bond with them and form the solid foundation of a lifelong relationship that you can both enjoy long into adulthood and as they become parents themselves. With these tips, parents can start this journey today!
About Vanessa Baker Mindset: A top-rated performance coach for Growth.com, the world’s leading coaching company, Vanessa Baker is a teen-parenting coach, founder of Vanessa Baker Mindset, mother of eight children, and new author — her first book From Mean to Real Clean: How to Create a Fully Functional Relationship with Your Teenager releases this January. She has worked with hundreds of young people to help them understand important values such as how to make things happen, how to take ownership of their lives, and how to feel proud and confident. For more: www.vbakermindset.com.